Film Capsules

Capsule reviews by Desson Thomson unless noted. A star ({sstar}) denotes a movie recommended by our critics.


FAHRENHEIT 9/11 (R) -- See review on Page 33.


THE MOTHER (R) -- See review on Page 33.

MY SISTER MARIA (Unrated) -- See capsule review on Page 34.

THE NOTEBOOK (PG-13) -- See review on Page 34.

TWO BROTHERS (PG) -- See capsule review on Page 36.

WHITE CHICKS (PG-13) -- See capsule review on Page 36.

First Runs & Revivals

AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS (PG, 125 minutes) -- Jackie Chan continues to strain himself to the point of bursting major blood vessels to be rubbery fun. It's cringe-inducing to watch. In this zestless remake of the 1956 movie, he's Lau Xing, a Chinese villager along for the ride, caught up in a globe-traveling stunt. Phileas Fogg (Steve Coogan), a 19th-century inventor, bets the imperious Lord Kelvin (Jim Broadbent), head of the Royal Academy of Science, that he can traverse the globe in 80 days; and Lau (whom Phileas dubs Passepartout), who is trying to smuggle a jade Buddha home to his Chinese village, joins him. Coogan, one of England's funniest comedians, is made into an unconvincing leading man. And in the worst cameo of anyone's career, Arnold Schwarzenegger plays Prince Hapi, a royal Turkish womanizer, who temporarily interrupts Phileas's journey. Contains action violence, some crude humor and mild obscenity. Area theaters.

BAADASSSSS! (R, 145 minutes) -- Mario Van Peebles' on-screen impersonation of his father, filmmaker Melvin Van Peebles, would like to be seen as an homage to the man who made the critically polarizing but historically important 1971 film "Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song." Despite its ambitions, the film, which Mario Van Peebles also directed and co-wrote, is a by-the-numbers making-of movie. While it captures the period well enough, and gives us all the little film-history details -- Melvin Van Peebles' money troubles, union hassles, harassment by the law -- it never bothers to tell us why the elder Van Peebles' efforts to get this mediocre film made mattered. In other words, it's got looks and brains but no real soul. Contains violent carnage, streams of obscenity, partial nudity, and strong sexual and drug content. Visions Bar Noir.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

THE CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK (PG-13, 115 minutes) -- In this convoluted follow-up to "Pitch Black," Vin Diesel reprises his role as the space adventurer Richard P. Riddick. Five years after the events of the first film, Riddick -- a big, strapping dude with ice-blue eyes for night vision and a vocal cadence that suggests Elmer Fudd on steroids -- finds himself captured by Lord Marshal (Colm Feore) and his nasty army of Necromongers. Stuck in a hard-core underground prison on the volcanic planet of Crematoria, he reencounters Kyra (Alexa Davalos), a woman he has some history with; and gets a little help from Aereon (Dame Judi Dench), an ambassador of the Elemental race, who's able to transform herself, float in the air and move through objects. The muddy story essentially revolves around the star's cool-guy poses and one-liners. For Diesel fans only, at best. Contains sci-fi violence, noise and some obscenity. Area theaters.

{sstar} COFFEE AND CIGARETTES (R, 96 minutes) -- This is vintage Jim Jarmusch -- literally. Containing 11 absurdist vignettes, all of which incorporate caffeine, nicotine and often hilariously deadpan conversation, the black-and-white "Coffee and Cigarettes" has been a work in progress since way back in 1986, which is when filmmaker Jarmusch made the first installment, starring Steven Wright and Roberto Benigni. Others, featuring Bill Murray and the Wu-Tang Clan's RZA and GZA, Iggy Pop, Tom Waits and Cate Blanchett, were made over the intervening years (the latest installments were completed early last year). Most touch upon the theme of duality, underscoring a leitmotif in which two realities coexist. One feels like documentary, but is fake. The other is akin to a dream, but it's the dream in which we live. Heavy stuff for a lot of wickedly silly coffee talk. Contains obscenity and brief discussion of drug use. In English and some unsubtitled French. Cineplex Odeon Outer Circle.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

{sstar} CONTROL ROOM (Unrated, 86 minutes) -- The cultural and religious fault lines between Western and Eastern news coverage of the Iraq invasion are made all too clear in Jehane Noujaim's enlightening, if structurally wandering documentary. The Egyptian American filmmaker attended news briefings by Centcom (the abbreviation for the American military's U.S. Central Command), witnessed candid conversations between foreign journalists and Centcom press officer Lt. Josh Rushing, and spent virtually unlimited time in the al-Jazeera newsroom. She also conducted many interviews with, and followed around, al-Jazeera journalists. The documentary covers the main highlights of the war's media coverage, including al-Jazeera's highly controversial decision to show footage of captured American troops, and the eventual fall of Baghdad. It shows a resistance to truth on both sides of the ideological news divide. Many members of the American media may have been embedded prisoners of the Pentagon's propaganda machine, but al-Jazeera has its own agenda, too, using hyperbole and slanted coverage to show the U.S. forces in as poor a light as possible. Contains disturbing carnage of soldiers and civilians, including children. In English and some Arabic with subtitles. Area theaters.

THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW (PG-13, 123 minutes) -- If you can manage to just lean back and let the spectacular silliness of this disaster flick about sudden, catastrophic climate change -- Hail in Tokyo! Tornadoes in Los Angeles! -- wash over you, you might have a pretty good time. After all, Manhattan looks mighty pretty in the snow (50 feet of special-effects snow, in this case). If, however, you're one of those nitpickers who wants films to make sense, include character development and be well written, I'm afraid you're out luck. Not even Dennis Quaid, as a heroic paleoclimatologist Jack Hall, and his fossil-fuel guzzling, ozone-destroying, four-wheel-drive SUV can rescue this snow job. Contains death, destruction of personal property and one mild obscenity. Area theaters.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

{sstar} DODGEBALL: A TRUE UNDERDOG STORY (PG-13, 91 minutes) -- Ben Stiller's wickedly funny as the wonderfully repulsive White Goodman, the '70s-coiffed, spandex-attired owner of an exclusive fitness center called Globo Gym. (He suggests the lovechild of Eric Roberts in "Star 80.") Vince Vaughn is also funny as Peter La Fleur, the lackadaisical owner of Average Joe's, a gym for the lumpy, tubby, meek and generally anti-Adonis crowd. When they field opposing teams to compete in a dodgeball contest for $50,000, the movie turns into a spirited spoof on every misfit-team caper from "The Longest Yard" to "The Mighty Ducks." The movie's full of down-and-dirty (but funny) gags and one-liners, and memorable scenes, especially between laid-back Peter and almost psychotically intense White, who refuses to let his complete incompetence with vocabulary or the English language interfere with his self-adoration or misfired sarcasm. Contains obscenity and lewd, crude humor. Area theaters.

{sstar} ELLA ENCHANTED (PG, 95 minutes) -- There's something charmingly old-fashioned about this sly retelling of the Cinderella story, despite the fact that the girl (Anne Hathaway) doesn't really want the handsome prince (Hugh Dancy). At least not at first. She's more interested in saving the ogres, giants and elves of the kingdom from political oppression, not to mention saving herself from a curse that forces her to obey any command she is given (e.g., "Hold your tongue"). As the plucky heroine, Hathaway's no Meryl Streep, but she's so earnest and appealing an actress, and the film so unironic in its embrace of tolerance and self-reliance, that "Ella" may enchant even the most cynical adults. Contains slapstick, humorous flatulence, the phrase "bite me" and glimpses of an ogre's naked derriere. University Mall Theatres.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

{sstar} ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND (R, 110 minutes) -- Charlie ("Being John Malkovich") Kaufman's most intelligent, thought-provoking and touching script yet is brought to antic life by director Michel Gondry, who unfolds like a slowly opening flower the tale of two lovers (Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet) who have elected to erase each other from their memories. By turns intoxicating and perplexing, Gondry and Kaufman's film is a philosophical love story about the nature of memory and emotion. Serious and silly at the same time, it's a film with both mainstream appeal and an abundance of grown-up ideas. Contains obscenity, drug use and sexual content. Cineplex Odeon Outer Circle.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

GARFIELD: THE MOVIE (PG, 85 minutes) -- Kids may be satisfied with this movie version of the famous comic strip, simply because it has a fuzzy cat. And a fuzzy dog. "Garfield" is essentially harmless, unless your child finds obviously computer-generated, bug-eyed rodents who quip with incessant smugness kinda scary. Essentially, the cat's life is upended when his owner, Jon (a supremely bland Breckin Meyer), takes in a new puppy, this to impress the animal doctor Liz (Jennifer Love Hewitt) into going out with him. When Garfield kicks the dog out of the house and the pup is kidnapped by a nefarious TV personality (Stephen Tobolowsky) who needs an animal that performs stupid pet tricks, Garfield makes it his moral mission to rescue the dog and become his friend. There's nothing to recommend about this film except its sheer innocuousness. And Bill Murray's off-screen voicing as Garfield adds no "Robin Williams" element to the movie. Contains nothing particularly objectionable, except wan humor. Area theaters.

GOOD BYE, LENIN! (R, 118 minutes) -- Director and co-writer Wolfgang Becker's sweet family dramedy is set in East Berlin in 1989, when earnest schoolteacher Christiane (Katrin Sass) watches her twenty-something son Alex (Daniel Bruhl) get arrested at an anti-government demonstration. Shocked, she has a heart attack and falls into a coma. When she wakes up, the Berlin Wall no longer stands. The doctor warns Alex that the shock of discovering this new world could kill her, so he and a few accomplices set out to create a little East Germany in the tiny family apartment. Structurally, "Good Bye, Lenin!" is a sitcom, and it turns repetitive in the end. Yet beneath the family saga and easy digs at the tackiness of Western consumer culture, Becker presents a serious critique of authoritarianism and propaganda. Contains brief obscenity and sexuality. Foxchase, Cineplex Odeon Dupont Circle and Cineplex Odeon Outer Circle.

-- Mark Jenkins

{sstar} HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN (PG, 142 minutes) -- It's not just the child actors who look all grown up in "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban." The filmmaking does, too. Alfonso Cuaron -- director of the Oscar-nominated "A Little Princess" and "Y Tu Mama Tambien" -- has made a grim, atmospheric movie that is so much more sophisticated than its predecessors, both visually and in terms of storytelling, that it's hard to believe the source material is the same. The movie is not perfect, or even close, but it delivers on the promise of J.K. Rowling's novels to a far greater extent. At the start of his third year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Harry learns that Sirius Black, the wizard whose betrayal of his parents resulted in their deaths, has escaped from Azkaban, the wizarding equivalent of a maximum-security penitentiary -- and he's coming after Harry. Aside from Cuaron's complete disavowal of cuddliness, the most notable difference in "Azkaban" is the burgeoning maturity of the film's three lead actors. Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint) look older, old enough for there to be -- ewww -- sexual tension between Ron and Hermione. "Azkaban" excels at capturing -- and elaborating on -- the details that make the books such a delight. While Rowling introduced the hippogriff -- half griffin, half horse -- it's Cuaron who answers the question, "What do hippogriff droppings look like?" Contains fisticuffs, an implied beheading and a sad sack werewolf. Area theaters.

-- Nicole Arthur

{sstar} KILL BILL VOL. 2 (R, 136 minutes) -- "Kill Bill Vol. 1's" vengeful antihero known as the Bride (Uma Thurman) is back to finish the job described in the two-part film's no-nonsense title, but there are still more assassins (Michael Madsen and Daryl Hannah) standing in her way. Once she dispatches them, however -- in battles with lower body counts but upped gross-out quotient -- she has plenty of time to sit down and chat over old times with former lover-cum-employer, Bill (David Carradine). The gymnastics are only verbal for much of the second half of this twisted love story, but it's no less fun than the first installment. Contains obscenity, drug content and plentiful violence. University Mall Theatres and Cineplex Odeon Dupont Circle.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

{sstar} MEAN GIRLS (PG-13, 93 minutes) -- "Saturday Night Live" head writer Tina Fey based her script for this sharp, smart teen comedy on author Rosalind Wiseman's "Queen Bees and Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter to Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends and Other Realities of Adolescence," and its roots in ethnography show. It's both a kind of anthropological document and an enormously satisfying entertainment, which means that it feels real, as well as really funny. Lindsay Lohan shines as the nice girl trying to retain her sanity -- and niceness -- in a sea of mini-skirted sharks. Contains some crude language, sexual humor, rioting high-school students and underage drinking. Regal Ballston Common, N.E. Theatre Fairfax Corner and Cineplex Odeon Wisconsin Ave.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

MONTY PYTHON'S LIFE OF BRIAN (R, 93 minutes) -- I'm not sure if "Monty Python's Life of Brian" -- which is being rereleased both to celebrate its 25th anniversary and to tweak "The Passion of the Christ" -- qualifies as religious satire, since many of the jokes have more to do with big noses (and other big body parts) than with faith. The good news is that the film, which centers around a man named Brian Cohen (Graham Chapman), who was born in the manger one door down from Jesus, is still funny. The bad news, at least to those who remember it fondly as quasi-blasphemous, is that its humor nowadays seems pretty tame, especially in comparison to a religious comedy like "Saved!," which is far nastier in its God-bashing than this quaintly old-fashioned yuk-fest. Contains naughty humor involving sex and religion. Shown with "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" at Visions Bar Noir.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

{sstar} NAPOLEON DYNAMITE (PG, 86 minutes) -- In Jared Hess's deadpan-funny indie comedy, Napoleon Dynamite (Jon Heder) is a scrawny nerd from Preston, Idaho, whose eyes are lost behind the semi-opaque haze of his glasses and who packs some wicked comments for his tormentors. As he weathers his oppressive worlds at home and school, he seems to exist in a live-action version of Mike Judge's TV cartoons ("Beavis and Butt-head," "King of the Hill") or Todd Solondz's suburban geek epic "Welcome to the Dollhouse." Jon Gries is hilariously out-there as Napoleon's incredibly narcissistic Uncle Rico. So is Aaron Ruell as his reclusive, thirty-something brother, Kip. And as Napoleon's withdrawn friend Pedro, Efren Ramirez is almost too odd to chuckle at. You ain't seen nothing, by the way, till you've seen Napoleon attack that tether ball. Contains some sexual innuendo. Area theaters.

NASCAR: THE IMAX EXPERIENCE (PG, 47 minutes) -- If speed is what you're looking for, you may be better off playing a race car video game than watching the IMAX movie devoted to NASCAR. Though there are some adrenaline-pumping race scenes shot from the perspective of both driver and spectator, the majority of the short feature portrays what happens off the track. The revving of 800-horsepower engines and footage of cars traveling 200 mph around an oval speedway are merely short segments spliced in between a discussion of the intricate science and extensive preparation involved before big races and interviews with NASCAR bigwigs, tailgating fans, and race car drivers and their spouses, all of which makes for an interesting behind-the-scenes look at one of the world's most popular spectator sports. Contains a few crash scenes. National Air and Space Museum Udvar-Hazy Center IMAX Theater.

-- Sara Gebhardt

THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST (R, 126 minutes) -- Mel Gibson's almost pornographically violent narrative of Jesus's last 12 hours feels like what I imagine it's like to watch a snuff film. Try as you might to remind yourself that what you're seeing is only a movie, the onslaught of savagery is rendered so realistically and with such unrelenting fury that it renders rationale faculties inert. Which is exactly Gibson's point, I'm sure, making "The Passion" less an episode of movie-going than, for many, something akin to a religious experience. It's just too bad that, for those viewers who don't come into the theater already knowing that they should care about Jesus's pain, Gibson's film, which gives short shrift to Jesus's lifetime of good words and deeds, doesn't really provide them with any reason to do so now. Contains numbingly graphic violence and emotional intensity. In Aramaic and Latin with subtitles. Arlington Cinema 'N' Drafthouse.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

RAISING HELEN (PG-13, 119 minutes) -- I can't really blame "About a Boy" for starting the trend of movies about shallow people who find themselves by looking after children. That was actually a good movie. I do, however, blame bad movies like "Uptown Girls" and "Jersey Girl" for perpetuating the myth -- exemplified in "Raising Helen" -- that kids are mainly useful as self-improvement tools. When Manhattan go-getter Helen (Kate Hudson) inherits three minor children from her late sister and brother-in-law, she thinks her life is over. But it has really just begun! Unfortunately, yours is about to take a turn for the worse, thanks to two hours of smarmy, lightweight dramedy. Contains some bad language and thematic material related to the death of parents and teenage sexuality. AMC Hoffman Center and AMC Mazza Gallerie.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

SAVED! (PG-13, 92 minutes) -- Lord knows I wanted to love this religious satire about holier-than-thou hypocrites. Unfortunately, the comedy, which centers around the reaction at a Christian high school when a former good girl (Jena Malone) gets pregnant, is guilty of the same black-and-white, aren't-we-better-than-you smugness that it accuses its fundamentalist Christian victims of. In the end, despite some great laugh moments, the comedy gets as stridently preachy as the God Squad phonies (led by Mandy Moore's finger-wagging Hilary Faye) whom it mocks with all too easy condescension. Contains obscenity, sexual humor and slapstick violence. Area theaters.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

{sstar} SCOOBY-DOO 2: MONSTERS UNLEASHED (PG, 85 minutes) -- After reuniting in the first live-action "Scooby-Doo," the members of Mystery Inc. -- Fred (Freddie Prinze Jr.), Daphne (Sarah Michelle Gellar), Velma (Linda Cardellini), Shaggy (Matthew Lillard) and Scooby-Doo (voiced by Neil Fanning) -- find themselves successful and universally adored. But at the opening of the Coolsonian Criminology Museum's new exhibit -- a collection of costumes worn by criminals they've unmasked -- the Pterodactyl Ghost comes to life and goes on a rampage, and a masked villain threatens to destroy Coolsville. When newscaster Heather Jasper-Howe (Alicia Silverstone) blames Mystery Inc. for the disaster and casts doubt on its ability to solve the mystery, the sleuths begin to question their own weaknesses and roles in the group. The monsters are still the highlight of the film, and if history is any guide, there will be more ghosts and evildoers for our wholesome heroes to battle in "Scooby-Doo 3." Contains rude language, some fighting and scary situations. University Mall Theatres.

-- Christina Talcott

{sstar} SHREK 2 (PG, 93 minutes) -- Set in the Hollywood-like kingdom of Far Far Away, "Shrek 2" pokes fun at a host of movies and television conventions, along with the very idea of fairy tales. Hoping to get started on the "happy ever after" part of their marriage, Shrek (voice of Mike Myers) and new bride Fiona (Cameron Diaz) take a trip from Shrek's home in the swamp to meet her parents (John Cleese and Julie Andrews), who are none too pleased to see their daughter wedded to an ogre. Daddy hires a hit man (Antonio Banderas as a hilarious Puss in Boots), even as Shrek sets out to remake himself in an image more pleasing to his wife. The jokes come rapid-fire, and the resolution of the complications is heartwarming. Contains some edgy humor, mild jokes about body fluids and gasses, vaguely sexual references along the lines of "a roll in the hay" and slapstick violence. Area theaters.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

SOUL PLANE (R, 86 minutes) -- If only the National Transportation Safety Board had license to stop "Soul Plane" from taking off, we could have saved ourselves from yet another African American film that thrives on stereotypes. By letting it fly, viewers have a chance to take a crash course in tastelessness by watching another piece of nouveau blaxploitation, in which black people decked out in their bling-bling sing and dance to raunchy hip-hop music and eat fried chicken while sipping Alize. After main character Nashawn (Kevin Hart) gets stuck on an airplane toilet, he wins a miraculous settlement of $100 million for his suffering (they also killed his dog), and then decides to start his own airline. Before the inaugural flight, Captain Mack (Snoop Dogg) shows up without real pilot credentials, making the inaugural flight from Los Angeles to New York a shaky one. An hour and a half of real airplane turbulence is better than sitting through the bad, offensive material that makes up the film. Fo' shizzle. Contains strong sexual content, much profanity and drug use. AMC Rivertowne and Majestic Theatres.

-- Sara Gebhardt

{sstar} SPRING, SUMMER, FALL, WINTER . . . AND SPRING (Unrated, 103 minutes) -- This delicate Korean fable by Kim Ki-duk, is about the slow boomerang trajectory of existence -- the way it curves away from you and yet ever toward you. With its heart-stopping setting, gorgeous images and a lovely little story, it's as fresh as woodland dew. It's about the lifelong relationship between a Buddhist monk (Oh Young-soo) and his novice (played by various actors in different stages of life), who live together in a small floating monastery in the center of a pond, nestled in a wooded mountain valley. This unsullied, bucolic corner of nature is going to be a spiritual workshop for the young boy, whose life will be an evolution through the straits of folly and sadness to dawning consciousness and rebirth. Told in virtually wordless sequences and with an inspired simplicity, the movie makes affecting epics of the smallest things. Contains sexual scenes and nudity. In Korean with subtitles. Landmark's Bethesda Row.

STARSKY & HUTCH (PG-13, 97 minutes) -- This spoof of the 1970s buddy-cop TV show should be called "Stiller & Wilson" for all the similarity it bears to its namesake. Sure, the basic premise and the Ford Gran Torino are essentially the same, but the humor, such as it is, derives entirely from Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson's comfortably familiar public personae as slightly nebbishy and surfer-mellow halves of an odd couple. Many "That '70s Show"-style yuks are gotten through jokes about man-perms, disco, Tab, sweatbands, aviator-frame sunglasses and bad period music, but, after all, how hard is that? Contains obscenity, drug use, sexual humor and partial nudity. Arlington Cinema 'N' Drafthouse.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

THE STEPFORD WIVES (PG-13, 93 minutes) -- In this over-the-top remake of the 1975 film (a better, more ominous version), TV producer Joanna Eberhart (Nicole Kidman) is fired and takes a break in the genteel Connecticut suburb of Stepford. But she soon learns she's in the land of Betty Crocker gone insane, where rich, geeky husbands have turned their wives into psychotically enthusiastic homemakers and sex-on-demand nymphos. Screenwriter Paul Rudnick (who wrote both "Addams Family" movies and "In & Out") goes for jokes by the bagful. But he and director Frank Oz come up hackneyed when it comes to making fun of making fun of WASP snobbery, mass consumption and male insecurity. "The Stepford Wives" provides funny but mutely safe giggles about former frat boys and nerds who have turned their wives into robots. It's only Rudnick's humor that helps you get through any of it. Contains sexual content and some obscenity. Area theaters.

{sstar}THE STORY OF THE WEEPING CAMEL (PG, 90 minutes) -- A "narrative documentary" in the tradition of "Nanook of the North," "Weeping Camel" follows a family of Mongolian herders in the Gobi desert as one of their 60 camels gives birth to -- and then rejects -- its albino baby. As is customary in this culture, the nomads trek to a nearby settlement to recruit the services of a musician, who then sings and plays a traditional song meant to coax the estranged mother and child together. Yes, it's a delightful animal story, but it's so much more than that, too. It's not only a story about a way of life that will be unfamiliar to many of us, but about how love is something that transcends geographic boundaries -- and species. Contains scenes of nude bathing and a birthing camel. In Mongolian with English subtitles. Landmark's Bethesda Row, Cinema Arts Theatre and Landmark's E Street Cinema.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

{sstar} SUPER SIZE ME (Unrated, 98 minutes) -- I laughed, I cried, I threw up. Well, maybe I didn't throw up, but filmmaker Morgan Spurlock does, and on camera, in his funny, smart and important -- okay, gross, too -- documentary about the health effects of a 30-day, all-McDonald's diet. And it ain't pretty. "Super Size Me," however, is utterly engrossing, with its mix of statistics, cartoons featuring saggy-breasted chickens, man-on-the-street interviews, Michael Moore-style muckraking and diaristic gazing by the filmmaker at his own navel -- even as his midsection expands with all the fat and sugar he's putting away. Contains obscenity, vomiting, a glimpse of a rectal exam, discussion of sex and sexual dysfunction, shots of gastric bypass surgery and other unappetizing things. Landmark's Bethesda Row, Cineplex Odeon Shirlington and Landmark's E Street Cinema.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

{sstar} THE TERMINAL (PG-13, 128 minutes) -- Foreign visitor Viktor Navorski (Tom Hanks) lands in New York's JFK airport, only to find himself stateless, since his (fictional) country of Krakozhia is undergoing a military coup. The airport supervisor (Stanley Tucci) informs Victor he must accordingly wait for maybe weeks in the terminal. So begins a physically claustrophobic yet highly entertaining caper set in a mini-universe of Starbucks, Borders, escalators and pushcarts. Viktor joins a funny community that includes food-services grunt (Diego Luna), a friendly customs officer (Zoe Saldana), an eccentric Indian floor cleaner (Kumar Pallana), and romantically needy flight attendant Amelia (Catherine Zeta-Jones) who's forever coming and going. The movie's delicately funny and inventive, thanks to writers Andrew ("The Truman Show") Niccol, Sacha Gervasi and Jeff Nathanson (who wrote "Catch Me if You Can"), and Steven Spielberg, who knows how to make a great story out of relatively little. Contains mild sexual content. Area theaters.

{sstar} 13 GOING ON 30 (PG-13, 98 minutes) -- A simple worldview informs "13 Going on 30," a film whose far-fetched foundation is overshadowed by the endearing story of Jenna Rink, a 13-year-old who, teen angst in hand, visits adulthood in an attempt to escape her current outcast status. When Jenna is suddenly transported from the high-ponytail age of the '80s to 2004, we find that she has become a 30-year-old magazine editor who back-stabs fellow co-workers to get ahead, ignores her family and dates a vacuous, muscular, meathead hockey player. The older Jenna (Jennifer Garner) is mature in body, but not in mentality. She does not understand who she has become, so she finds grown-up Matt (Mark Ruffalo) -- who she had insulted before being thrust into the adult world to gain favor with the cool kids -- to help her sort through the parts of her life that she has missed. As Matt reluctantly helps Jenna, feelings develop between them, and we wait to see if wishing dust can really alter the course of their lives. That Jenna's journey takes place in a fantasy world where everything ends up in neat little packages is expected, since it is the kind of place a 13-year-old might dream up. Contains some sexual content and a reference to drug use. Arlington Cinema 'N' Drafthouse and University Mall Theatres.

-- Sara Gebhardt

{sstar} TROY (R, 165 minutes) -- The only way to enjoy Wolfgang Petersen's nearly three-hour version of Homer's "Iliad" is as a Brad Pitt vehicle. Not that there's anything wrong with that. There's plenty of Pitt's muscle-bound Achilles to go around in this battle-rich epic. Just don't expect too much literal fidelity to the source material. For one thing, the gods are notably absent in this very human tale of love and revenge. Sure, there are no Olympians here, but the movie's godlike star probably comes the closest. Contains battlefield violence, extremely chaste nudity and some sexual content. Area theaters.

VAN HELSING (PG-13, 125 minutes) -- This big-budget monster mash brings together Dracula, Frankenstein's monster, various wolfmen, Mr. Hyde and creature killer Van Helsing. But the real clash isn't between vampires and wolfmen, or man and beast. It's between a story and in-your-face computer-generated effects. The story, in which Van Helsing (Hugh Jackman) and beautiful, battle-tested Anna Valerious (Kate Beckinsale) take on Dracula (Richard Roxburgh), loses big-time. Writer-director Stephen Sommers (creator of all those "Mummy" hits) uses the barest of excuses to bring these characters together. And the road to the Count is crowded with multiple, confusing subplots and earsplitting effects, with barely a breath in between. If computer-generated imagery is your pleasure, and your only one, consider yourself informed and warned, all in one. Contains action violence, frightening images and some sexual content. Muvico Egyptian Theatres and N.E. Theatre Fairfax Corner.


AIR AND SPACE MUSEUM/DOWNTOWN -- At the Lockheed Martin IMAX Theater: "Straight Up: Helicopters in Action," daily at 10:15 and 3. "Space Station 3D," daily at 11:10, 12:15, 1:55, 4, 5 and 6. "To Fly!," daily at 1:15. At the Albert Einstein Planetarium: "Infinity Express," daily at 10:30, 11, 11:30, 12:30, 1, 1:30, 2, 2:30, 3, 3:30, 4, 4:30 and 5. "The Stars Tonight," daily at noon. Seventh and Independence SW. 202-357-1686.

AIR AND SPACE MUSEUM/DULLES -- "Straight Up: Helicopters in Action," daily at 11, 2 and 5. "Adrenaline Rush: The Science of Risk," daily at noon and 3. "NASCAR: The IMAX Experience," daily at 1, 4 and 6. 14390 Air and Space Museum Pkwy., Chantilly. 202-357-2700.

AMERICAN CITY DINER -- "Witness for the Prosecution," Friday at 8:30. "An Affair to Remember," Saturday at 8:30. "Stalag 17," Sunday at 8:30. "The Verdict," Monday at 8. "Double Indemnity," Tuesday at 8:30. "The African Queen," Wednesday at 8. 5532 Connecticut Ave. NW. 202-244-1949.

ANACOSTIA MUSEUM & CENTER for African American History & Culture -- "Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears," film and story writing workshop, Thursday at 10:30. Free, but reservations recommended. 1901 Fort Pl. SE. 202-287-3369.

BRAZILIAN-AMERICAN CULTURAL Institute -- "Carandiru," Wednesday at 7. 4719 Wisconsin Ave. NW. 202-362-8334.

CHARLES THEATRE -- "Monsieur Hulot's Holiday," Saturday at noon and Thursday at 9. 1711 N. Charles St., Baltimore. 410-727-3456.

DCJCC -- "Yentl," Tuesday at 7. Goldman Theater, 1529 16th St. NW. 202-777-3269.

FILMS ON THE HILL -- "David Copperfield" and "Book Revue," Friday at 7. "Mississippi" and "The Dentist," Wednesday at 7. Capitol Hill Arts Workshop, 545 Seventh St. SE. 202-547-6839.

FREER -- "Shower," Friday at 7. "Hi! Dharma," Sunday at 2. "In the Forest Again," Thursday at 7. Free, but tickets required. Meyer Auditorium, 12th Street and Jefferson Drive SW. 202-633-4880.

GRIOT CINEMA -- "Dance Hall Queen," Sunday at 3:15. Erico Cafe, 1334 U St. NW. 202-518-9742.

HORROR! VINTAGE MEXICAN B-MOVIE SERIES -- "La Cabeza Viviente (The Living Head)," Thursday at 8. Free. Hirshhorn, Ring Auditorium, Seventh and Independence SW. 202-633-4674.

MARYLAND SCIENCE CENTER -- IMAX Theater: "Jane Goodall's Wild Chimpanzees" and "Hubble: Galaxies Across Space & Time," Friday daily at 10:30, 12:45, 3 and 7:45. "NASCAR 3D: The IMAX Experience," Friday, Saturday and Thursday at 11:30, 1:45, 4, 6:30 and 8:45; Sunday-Wednesday at 11:30, 1:45, 4 and 6:30. "Sacred Planet," daily at 5:15. Davis Planetarium: "The Sky Live!" Friday, Saturday and Thursday at noon, 3 and 6; Sunday at 3; Monday-Wednesday at noon and 3. "The Sky Above Mister Rogers' Neighborhood," daily at 1. "Ring World," daily at 2 and 5. "Hubble Heritage: Poetic Pictures," daily at 4. "Live From the Sun," Sunday at noon. 601 Light St., Baltimore. 410-685-5225.

NATIONAL GALLERY OF ART -- "Courtly Art of the Ancient Maya," Friday, Sunday and Tuesday at 11:30. "Silver Cities of the Yucatan," Friday and Saturday at 12:30. "Carmen Jones," Saturday at 2. "Cronos," Saturday at 4. "The Wave," Sunday at 2. "Love's a Bitch," Sunday at 4. Free. East Building, Fourth and Constitution NW. 202-737-4215.

NATIONAL MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY -- Johnson IMAX Theater: "Bugs! (3-D)," daily at 10:20, 12:15, 3:10 and 6. "T-Rex: Back to the Cretaceous," daily at 11:15, 1:10, 2:10, 4:05, 5:05 and 7. "Cirque du Soleil: Journey of Man," Friday-Saturday at 8. Baird Auditorium: "Desounen -- Dialogue With Death," Friday at noon. 10th and Constitution NW. 202-633-7400.

NORTHEAST ANIME CLUB -- "GTO," "The Slayers" and "Ranma 1/2," Saturday at 2. Northeast Neighborhood Library, 330 Seventh St. NE. 202-698-3320.

PSYCHOTRONIC FILM SOCIETY -- "Psychotronic A-Go-Go," Tuesday at 8. Dr. Dremo's Taphouse, 2001 Clarendon Blvd., Arlington. 202-736-1732 or 202-707-2540.

VISIONS BAR NOIR -- "Monty Python and the Holy Grail," Friday-Saturday at midnight. "Monty Python's Life of Brian," Friday-Saturday at midnight. "Six Feet Under" and "Queer as Folk," Sunday at 9. Local Film Night, Tuesday at 7. 1927 Florida Ave. NW. 202-667-0090.

New on Video

{sstar} BAD SANTA


In Terry Zwigoff's movie, Billy Bob Thornton is Willie, a foulmouthed, besotted department store Santa with a hidden agenda. Turns out he's a safecracker, in partnership with the three-foot-tall Santa Elf buddy Marcus (Tony Cox), who robs from the store when the holiday gig is done. When Willie becomes friends with a kid who invites him to his home, however, the old cynic doesn't realize his moral redemption has begun. "Bad Santa" is not for anyone who considers Christmas too sacrosanct to joke about, or who shudders at verbally abusive scenes involving children. But for anyone else with a dark sense of humor, the movie's a subversive riot. And Thornton is one hilariously bad Santa. Contains pervasive obscenity, sexual content and some violence.

-- Desson Thomson



To begin with, you have to appreciate the inherent wonderfulness of B-movies in order for this parody of cheesy flying-saucer and monster flicks from the 1950s and 1960s to work. But if you do -- meaning that you can sit through multiple screenings of "Plan 9 From Outer Space" and its ilk -- you're likely to love "The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra," a satire of bad science fiction and horror that is as affectionate as it is cruel. Wickedly, witheringly accurate in its lame dialogue, cheap effects, scary music and stupid plot, writer-director-star Larry Blamire's sendup -- which features a mutant, a talking cadaver, an evil scientist, a catsuit-clad she-beast and two silver-jumpsuited aliens -- is hugely giddy fun. Contains nothing offensive other than a couple of slightly suggestive double-entendres.

-- Michael O'Sullivan



It's a refrain you've heard before: Johnny Depp, good; movie, bad. Well, not bad, exactly, but more than a bit of a letdown. Despite Depp's eccentric and watchable performance as depressive New York writer being stalked by a Mississippi dairy farmer (John Turturro) who claims to have been plagiarized, the movie, based on a Stephen King story, leaves too many loose threads hanging in an uncomfortably "Psycho"-esque climax. The first three- quarters of David "Panic Room" Koepp's movie aren't too shabby, but as Depp's Mort Rainey himself admits, "The ending" -- which here falls flat -- "is the most important part." Contains obscenity, some thematic sexuality and a modest amount of grisly visuals and violence.

-- M.O.

"The Stepford Wives," starring Nicole Kidman, left, as Joanna and Bette Midler as Bobbie, is less than perfect.